Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 12, 2015

Glimmerglass Festival

Cooperstown, NY 
July 10- August 23, 201
by Michael J. Moran

Alice Busch Opera Theater
Glimmerglass celebrates its 40th anniversary season in 2015 with four productions, all of which can be seen in one weekend during August in the 900-seat Alice Busch Opera Theater. All casts include professional singers and “young artists” in the Festival’s summer training program.

Madeline Sayet’s charming production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” was sung in a colloquial English translation by Kelley Rourke. Dressed in a modern business suit, Tamino leaves the chaos of city life for a forest journey toward self-discovery, finding love with Pamina, companionship with Papageno, and a series of trials from various other characters. Tenor Sean Panikkar and soprano Jacqueline Echols sang radiantly as the lovers, and young artist baritone Ben Edquist brought a sonorous voice and clever physical comedy to Papageno.   

Other vocal standouts were bass Solomon Howard as Sarastro and young artist soprano So Young Park, who nailed the Queen of the Night’s demanding Act II aria. Hartford Symphony Music Director Carolyn Kuan led a shimmering rendition of the magical score.

In Francesca Zambello’s lively production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide,” based on Voltaire’s satirical novel, we follow the title character from innocent youth through worldly disillusionment to hard-earned wisdom, always testing the relentless optimism of his teacher, Professor Pangloss. Tenor Andrew Stenson was a transparent Candide, and soprano Kathryn Lewek, a ravishing Cunegonde, his love interest. Baritone David Garrison was entertaining as Pangloss, and mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson, a hoot as the Old Lady. Glimmerglass Music Director Joseph Colaneri highlighted all the shifting musical styles with mastery.

The three witches who open Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” were replaced in Anne Bogart’s production of Verdi’s operatic setting by a dozen women dressed in early 20th-century attire. Though initially disconcerting, her updated setting and minimal staging effectively illustrate the devastating impact of Macbeth’s ambition on his community and its timeless relevance. With fine performances by soprano Melody Moore as a haunted Lady Macbeth and Howard as a dignified Banquo and solid leadership from Colaneri, the wrenching account of the tortured Macbeth by bass-baritone Eric Owens was the biggest star turn of this year’s Festival.    

A stark production by Tazewell Thompson of Vivaldi’s “Cato in Utica” dramatized Roman senator Cato’s opposition to Caesar’s growingly imperial rule. Tenor Thomas Michael Allen was commanding as Cato, and countertenor John Holiday compelling as Caesar, but the finest vocal performance was young artist mezzo-soprano Megan Samarin’s anguished Marzia, Cato’s daughter and Caesar’s lover. Ryan Brown led the baroque orchestra with tenderness and fire.  

Special Glimmerglass events this weekend included a master class with soprano Deborah Voigt and four young artists, and a “Candide” Symposium featuring the composer’s daughter Jamie Bernstein and a panel discussion.